Steps to become a Lawyer/Attorney in Oregon
Follow the step by step process or choose what situation that best describes you:
- Finish Your Undergraduate Pre-Law Education
- Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
- Go to Law School in Oregon
- Take the Oregon State Bar Exam and become an Attorney
- Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar
Oregon Law Careers
The Oregon Employment Department projects an increase of 14.9 percent in the amount of jobs available for lawyers throughout the state from 2010 to 2020. In 2012, the OLMIS reported that the average lawyer’s annual salary is $104,214. Projected annual openings for lawyers during this period are that 75 lawyer jobs each year will be open due to growth, and 103 per year due to replacement, for a total of 178 jobs for lawyers each year during this ten-year period. These numbers represent a bright future for those who plan to become lawyers in Oregon. If this is your chosen career path, read on.
Get Your Oregon Undergraduate Pre-Law Major
The Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners does not require that you obtain a bachelor’s degree prior to going to law school. However, if you plan to attend any law school accredited by the American Bar Association, you must have a bachelor’s degree prior to entry.
Any ABA-accredited law school will require that you receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. If your school is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, an ABA-accredited law school should accept the legitimacy of your undergraduate degree.
Requirements and Standards
You need not take specific courses, majors or minors while in undergraduate school. Some courses may end up benefiting you during law school if taken during undergraduate school, such as criminal justice, economics, business, philosophy, political science and communications. However, there is no ABA mandate that you take these or any other courses, as long as you receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school.
You may obtain a bachelor’s degree in arts (B.A.) or sciences (B.S) within any subject major you choose.
Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) in Oregon
Before you can be admitted to any law school, you must pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). This standardized examination is offered four times per year.
How to prepare
You can find much free study help at the LSAT website. If you would like to take a paid LSAT preparation course, options throughout Oregon include:
LSAT Exam Prep Courses in Oregon:
- LSAT Prep Course, Sherwood Test Prep, Portland
- LSAT Practice Test, Concordia University School of Law, Portland
- LSAT Prep Group, Slay the Beast, Portland
- LSAT Prep Class, TestMasters, Albany, Eugene and Portland
You will encounter the following types of multiple-choice questions on the LSAT:
- Analytical Reasoning — Here, you will be faced with four logic problems, each followed by five to eight questions. They test your ability to apply rules to a system, restricting your analysis to what can be logically inferred or is directly stated. This section counts for 25 percent of your total LSAT score.
- Logical Reasoning — These sections are made up of 25 passages, each followed by a few questions. These questions test your abilities to identify an argument’s main point, deduce what the author of the passage assumes, draw conclusions, and identify principals and spot logical errors. The two Logical Reasoning sections count for 50 percent of your total LSAT score.
- Reading Comprehension — You must read four lengthy passages and answer questions about each passage. Your abilities to identify conclusions, tones, organizational structure of a passage, and the meaning of words are tested here. This section counts for 25 percent of your total LSAT score.
Additionally, you will be asked for a 30-minute writing sample. This does not count towards your total LSAT score, but will be used by admissions personnel at the law schools you apply to in evaluating your suitability for law school.
The Law School Admission Council requires that you apply online to take the LSAT, which is given in October, December, February and June on Saturdays and Wednesdays. For the 2012-2013 academic year, Oregon testing centers are:
- Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland, OR 97520
- Central Oregon Community College, 2600 NW College Way, Bend, OR 97701
- Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331
- University of Oregon, 110 Johnson Hall, Eugene, OR 97403
- Mount Hood Community College, 26000 SE Stark St, Gresham, OR 97030
- Eastern Oregon University, One University Blvd, La Grande, OR 97850
- Portland Community College Southeast Center, 12000 SW 49th Ave, Portland, OR 97219-7132
- Umpqua Community College, 1140 College Rd., Roseburg, OR 97470-0226
- Chemeketa Community College, 4000 Lancaster Dr NE,Salem, OR 97305
- Corban College, 5000 Deer Park Dr SE, Salem, OR 97317-9392
Receiving Your Score
You should receive your LSAT score, which will total between 120 and 180, about three weeks after you take the examination. Per ABA law school data, these ABA-approved law schools in Oregon typically accept the following LSAT scores from new admittees:
- Lewis & Clark Law School: 161
- University of Oregon School of Law: 159
- Willamette University College of Law: 155
Go to Law School in Oregon
With a passing LSAT score, you are now set to apply to ABA-approved law schools. The Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners requires that, unless you are already a practicing attorney licensed elsewhere or a graduate of a foreign law school (see below); you must graduate from an ABA-accredited law institution. There are more than 200 of them across the country from which you may choose. They are listed in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools.
Credential Assembly Service
All ABA-accredited law schools mandate that you utilize the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) when applying for admission. It will help you to gather undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, online evaluations and other information necessary to apply to law school. The CAS will compile all of this information into a law school report and present it to the law school(s) to which you wish to apply. You may ask the CAS to create up to five law school reports for you.
The Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners says that you must have a J.D. or L.L.B. degree from an ABA-accredited law institution if you want to take the state’s bar examination in the future. There are exceptions, however.
- Graduates of US law schools that are not ABA accredited may take the exam if:
- You are a member in good standing of the bar of a reciprocal jurisdiction
- You have actively practiced law there for three of the past five years
- Graduates of foreign law schools may take the exam if:
- The requirements of admission to the bar in the foreign country are equivalent to Oregon’s
- You are a member of the bar in a foreign jurisdiction that uses the Common Law of England as its basis of jurisprudence
- You graduated from a foreign law school determined by the Board to be equivalent to an ABA-approved law school
ABA-Accredited Law Schools in Oregon
These Oregon law schools are ABA accredited:
- Lewis & Clark Law School, 10015 SW Terwilliger Boulevard, Portland, OR 97219-7799
- University of Oregon School of Law, 1221 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1221
- Willamette University College of Law, Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center, 245 Winter Street SE, Salem, OR 97301
All ABA approved law schools typically offer the same basic foundation legal courses including:
- Civil procedure and law
- Criminal procedure and law
- Constitutional law
- International law
- Legal research and writing
- Practice issues
- Legal ethics and professionalism
- Property (real and personal)
- Trusts, estates and wills
Online Law Degrees
Internships provide you, as a law student, with fun and educational practical opportunities on which you may be able to build after graduation. Your school may place you into an off-campus situation in which you work as an assistant to a lawyer, carry on some legal duties, or work in a government agency or legislature. These situations test what you have learned in class up to this point and allow you to use that knowledge in a practical setting.
J.D. Degree Programs
You must have a J.D. (Juris Doctor) or L.L.B. (Bachelor of Laws) degree from a law school approved by the American Bar association in order to sit for the Oregon bar exam.
Take the Oregon State Bar Exam
With your law degree in hand, you may now register to take the Oregon bar examination.
Under rules of the Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, you are not eligible for bar admission if you were ever convicted of a crime that would have led to disbarment if you had been an Oregon lawyer at the time.
Although Oregon is not formally considered to be a UBE state, it administers parts of the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE). Free materials to help you study for this examination are available at the National Conference of Bar Examiners website. The sections to study are the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Performance Test (MPT) and Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). Other choices you have for bar exam review and preparation in Oregon include:
- Oregon Bar Exam Home Study Course, Ameribar, online
- Bar Review, Supreme Bar Review, online
- Oregon Bar Review, Barbri of Oregon, Portland, Salem, Eugene and online
The Oregon Bar Exam is administered over two days in February or July. It consists of:
- The MBE: six hours of 200 multiple choice questions on:
- Real property
- Contracts (includes Uniform Commercial Code)
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law
- The MPT: you are provided with a file and a library and must complete a performance task. Skills tested include:
- Legal reasoning and analysis
- Problem solving
- Factual analysis
- Organization and management
- Recognizing and resolving ethical problems
- Essay exam: consists of a combination of MEE and Oregon essay questions, over 3 ½ hours, on any of these areas:
- Administrative law (Oregon and federal)
- Civil procedure (Oregon and federal)
- Constitutional law
- Criminal law and procedure
- Evidence (Oregon and federal)
- Federal income taxation
- Legal ethics (Oregon)
- Uniform Commercial Code Article 2 (Sales)
- Uniform Commercial Code Articles 1 and 9 (Secured Transactions )
- Trusts and Estates
Complete the Bar Exam Application. File by Nov 15 for the February exam and April 15 for the July exam to avoid late fees. Instructions are as follows:
- Complete and submit two copies of the Application Information Sheet
- Complete and submit six character and fitness statements with the address and contact info of your last five employers
- Include $625 fee by cash, money order or check payable to Oregon State Bar
- Include notarized affidavit (part of application package)
- Include completed, certified Certificate of Graduation showing that you have a law degree
- Include completed fingerprint card (instructions contained in application package)
- Include signed professionalism statement (part of application package)
Submit everything to Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners, 16037 SW Upper Boones Ferry Rd, Tigard, OR 97224.
The Oregon State Board of Bar Examiners has posted the following passing results from previous years’ bar examinations:
- Feb 2012: 69 percent of all test-takers passed the exam
- July 2011: 72%
- Feb 2011: 61%
- July 2010: 70%
- Feb 2010: 63%
- July 2009: 71%
- Feb 2009: 66%
- July 2008: 74%
- Feb 2008: 64%
Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)
Within 24 months of passing the Oregon bar exam, you must take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) with a scaled score of 85 or better. You must apply online with the NCBE to schedule this exam.
Admission on Motion
If you are a licensed attorney and bar member in a reciprocal state, you may be eligible for admission on motion (without examination) to the Oregon bar.
- Are you licensed in WA, ID, UT or AK and applying for admission on motion prior to December 31, 2015? If so, you must demonstrate active, substantial and continuous practice of law for three of the past five years
- Are you licensed in another US jurisdiction? If so, you must demonstrate active, substantial and continuous practice for five of the past seven years
File the Application for Reciprocal Admission.
Licensing and Admission to the Bar
Oregon bar exam results are normally mailed to you within six weeks of taking the examination. You will be given instructions for your bar admission ceremony (if you pass).
Now that You’ve Been Admitted to the Bar in Oregon
What a milestone you have passed! You are now a licensed member of the Oregon bar! During your first Continuing Legal Education (CLE) reporting period, you must complete 15 credits that includes 10 practical skills, one legal ethics, one child abuse reporting, and one elimination of bias course. You must also participate in the State Bar’s New Lawyer Mentoring Program (NLMP) during your first year of practice. This program offers you individual guidance on what makes up a highly competent legal practice. Additionally, it promotes collegiality, professionalism and civility among Oregon attorneys. Your mentor can answer just about any question that you may have in starting out as a new Oregon lawyer.
Where should you work, as a new lawyer in Oregon? Should you open your own solo practice, join an existing legal firm, work for a corporation, or what? There are two Fortune 500 corporations in Oregon, which may hire legal help from time to time: Nike in Beaverton and Precision Castparts in Portland. Other companies with locations in Oregon that may need legal assistance include accounting firm PWC in Portland, and Microsoft Corporation in Portland.
Law firms in Oregon that may be a great place to get your start as a lawyer include international business litigation firm Perkins Coie LLP in Portland; Schwabe, family law specialists Williamson & Wyatt in Portland, Bend and Salem; multi-practice firm Harrang Long Gary Rudnick, LLC in Eugene, Portland and Salem; and business litigators Harris Law Firm, P.C. in Hillsboro.
Legal specialty certification
Specialization in a legal area is possible once you have your law license in Oregon. Depending upon the area in which you wish to practice, various associations are available to provide certification services. The American Board of Certification (ABC) provides certification services for legal specializations in business bankruptcy, consumer bankruptcy, and creditors’ rights. Passing an examination in your intended specialty area is required. Call the ABC at (319) 365-2222 or email them at email@example.com for more information.
The National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC) offers legal certification services for specializations in social security disability, civil pretrial advocacy, criminal trial law, family trial law, and civil trial law. Again, passing an examination within your specialty area is required. For more information, call or email the Oregon representative of the NBLSC, D. Lawrence Wobbrock, at (503) 228-6600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requirements for maintaining license
To keep your Oregon legal license active and maintain bar membership, you must complete 45 credit hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) every three years. Five of these credit hours must be in legal ethics. One credit hour must be in child abuse reporting. Three credit hours must be in elimination of bias. Contact MCLE Administrator Denise Cline at email@example.com for more information.
Court Systems in Oregon
The Oregon State Court System is comprised of the following courts:
- Supreme Court – Oregon’s highest court, conducts discretionary reviews of cases from the Oregon Court of Appeals, as well as direct review of circuit court decisions in death penalty cases, labor law injunctions, decisions of the Oregon Tax Court, some agency proceedings, certified questions of law, practice of law proceedings, and judicial fitness and disability. The Oregon Supreme Court is located at 1163 State Street, Salem, OR 97301-2563.
- Court of Appeals- This represents the first level of appeals after a trial court decision. The Court of Appeals hears all civil and criminal appeals from circuit court (except death penalty cases and Tax Court Appeals) and reviews the actions of state administrative agencies. The Oregon Court of Appeals is located at 1163 State Street, Salem, OR 97301-2563.
- Tax Court- This court has exclusive jurisdiction over tax appeals. This includes appeals of personal income tax, property tax, corporate excise tax, timber tax, local budget law and property tax limitations. It has two divisions, the Magistrate Division and the Regular Division. Most appeals to the Tax Court are filed first and heard in the Magistrate Division. Their decision can be appealed to the Regular Division. The Oregon Tax Court is located at 1241 State Street, Floor 3R (Magistrate Division) or Floor 4R (Regular Division), Salem, OR 97301.
- Circuit Court – Each of the 36 counties in Oregon has a circuit court. Oregon’s trial court of general jurisdiction, the Circuit Court hears cases on all subject matters, both civil and criminal.
- Local Courts – limited jurisdiction and not part of the state court system, includes:
- County Courts- Now found in just seven counties in Oregon: Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler (which have jurisdiction over both juvenile and probate cases); Grant, Harney, and Malheur (have jurisdiction over probate cases only); and Morrow (has jurisdiction over juvenile cases only).
- Justice Courts-held by a justice of the peace in 19 counties in Oregon. Justice courts have jurisdiction in their county concurrent with the circuit court for all criminal prosecutions except felony trials. These courts also have jurisdiction over traffic, wildlife, boating and other violations occurring in the county. Justice courts have small claims jurisdiction for damages/money under $7500
- Municipal Courts – Found in some incorporated cities across Oregon. These courts have concurrent jurisdiction with circuit and justice courts over violations and misdemeanors committed in the city where the court is located. They do not, however, have jurisdiction over felonies. Municipal courts usually hear traffic violations and crimes; municipal code/ordinance violations; parking violations; vehicle impoundments; and minor drug, tobacco and liquor violations occurring within the municipality.
Elective membership organizations
Consider joining an elective membership organization that can assist you in your career growth as a lawyer in Oregon, such as:
- Oregon Trial Lawyers Association
- Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
- Oregon Women Lawyers
- American Immigration Lawyers Association Oregon Chapter
- Oregon Minority Lawyers Association